537-1453-1935-2020 (WE ENDURE AND PRAY)

Kyiv, Ukraine

Public statement on the situation with the converting Hagia Sophia into a mosque ︎ in Turkey in the summer of 2020. The phrase "We endure and pray", which summed up the speech of Patriarch Bartholomew ︎ on September 6, was appropriated by me, printed on banners and hung on the walls of St. Sophia Cathedral in Kyiv.


When I found out this summer that Hagia Sophia, with the political will of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, would be turned into a mosque, I was seriously worried. As a symbol of the secularly balanced coexistence of Christians and Muslims, in the status of a museum, it was a metaphor for interfaith understanding enshrined in stone. It turned out that the post-secular periphery of Europe was rising not only with nationalist or militaristic but also with religious sentiments. This illusory balance lasted less than a century.

In terms of symbolism and reputation, the conversion of Hagia Sophia into a mosque for President Erdogan can be compared, perhaps, to the annexation of Crimea by Russian President Vladimir Putin. The second blow, of course, was the conversion of the monastery of Chora into a mosque.
Thanks to the #bruderschaft project, I had the opportunity to speak publicly about this situation. The idea was to appeal to the official representatives of the Sofia Kyivska National Reserve and ask them to publicly state their attitude to the situation in Turkey. Their statement was to be appropriated by me and presented in the form of banners on the outer walls of the Cathedral of St. Sophia of Kyiv.

After several weeks of communication, it turned out that the Ministry of Culture and Information Policy of Ukraine did not approve the desire of the representatives of the National Reserve of Sophia of Kyiv to speak officially. Trying not to lose this opportunity for myself, I turned to the recent speech of Patriarch Bartholomew, which ended with a short sentence: "We endure and pray."

This phrase, on the one hand, is the quintessence of the Orthodox worldview, which through humility and patience entrusts its destiny in the hands of God's providence. On the other hand, by reading the patriarch's speech to which it refers, we can return to the context of the political and religious tensions surrounding the situation aforementioned.
Briefly about the name. 537 — consecration of the new church; 1453 — converted into a mosque; 1935 — converted into a museum; 2020 — converted into a mosque.